Safe Bathrooms For The Elderly

Tips on safeguarding the elderly in the bathroom.

Most household accidents happen in the bathroom. This is even truer for the elderly. But there are things you can do to make the bathroom safer for the elderly.

First, buy a rubber mat for the shower or bathtub floor. These can be found at many stores. Some come with suction cups on the bottom of the mat to hold it securely to the floor. Others just lay on the floor. You can also apply strips of sticky material. Buy the strips and simply pull of the cover backing. Under the backing is the sticky substance. Apply this sticky substance to the floor. Prepare ahead of time because once the sticky substance is applied it is close to impossible to move. So know what lengths you need and what pattern you want to create. Self stick decals also come in a variety of designs.

Don't leave the tub yet. Getting into the tub is one of the most dangerous activities. If you have a tub, purchase a tub grab bar. This is a metal or plastic bar that attaches to the side of the tub like a vise. It is usually easily attached by turning a knob. Tighten the bar until it is securely attached to the tub. On the other hand, be careful not to secure it so tightly that it may crack the tub. This is only true for older tubs made of a less durable material. This bar gives a person something to grab when entering or leaving the tub.

You may also want to install a wall grab bar. These too can be made of plastic or metal. They are used to help the person keep her balance. Like the name says they are attached to the wall with very long screws. One thing here is a necessity. The screws must be sunk into a 2x4 wall stud for security. A good deal of force is applied to the grab bar as people enter or leave the tub. Thus, you have to make certain the grab bar is very securely attached to the wall. The best way to do this is to make certain it is secured to the wood of the wall framing. The wall grab bar is also very important for the shower, not so much for entry and exit, but as a stabilizer while people are standing in the shower.

You might also want to consider a seat in the shower. Standing can be difficult for many. You can purchase such seats specifically designed for this purpose. This is preferable than just placing a chair in the shower. The designed seats are built to be non-slip and water resistant. If you are building a new shower you can add a seat to the shower wall as a permanent fixture of the shower.

OK, we are still in the tub/shower. Another safety item is large faucet handles. Elderly hands are often not as flexible as they once were making turning or using handles difficult. This difficulty can lead to frustration and perhaps imbalance. So add the largest handles you can.

Bad eyesight, or perhaps even a feeble mind, can help someone turn the hot water handle too far. This can lead to scalding. New tub/bath faucets now come with thermostatic controls, assuring that the water never gets too hot. A plumber can easily replace the old faucet with a thermostatic one.

Now we are ready to leave the tub/bath. But look out for the floor. A tile, ceramic, linoleum, covering floor can easily become slippery. Even without the splashing water of a bathroom these materials can be slippery. One remedy is a throw rug. Make certain the throw rug has a good rubber backing so it does not move around the floor. A moving throw rug is just as dangerous as a smooth floor. Moving throw rugs bunch up and trip people. Perhaps your best safety bet is to carpet the bathroom wall to wall. There are a number of carpet materials that are water and stain resistant.

We are moving along to the sink. Here you want to have the same safety precautions as the tub/shower faucets. Make certain the faucets are easy to use and make certain the faucet has a thermostatic control. Sinks that have round edges are also important. A sharp edged sink may cause more damage if the person falls and hits the sink. You might also consider putting the sink at a particular height and a certain style for people who use wheel chairs. Moving the sink is a pretty major task. I would seriously consider hiring a licensed plumber for this retrofit task. In the same vein you may consider a wheel chair accessible shower. This would mean the person could roll their wheel chair right into the shower.

Let's move along to the commode. This is another great place for a grab bar. If the commode is near a wall a grab bar can be attached to the wall. Again, remember to attach it securely to the wall framing. There are also specially designed grab bars that are secured to the commode. You might also consider a seat adjustment. Many people have trouble with their legs and knees making it difficult to sit so low on the toilet seat. Soft, high seats can be attached to the toilet seat. This attachment raises the height of the seat making it easier to sit.

All of these accessories can be found at a number of places. If your community has an office for the aging they will certainly know where to find these products. In some cases these accessories may be provided by the office for the aging free or at a substantial cost reduction. Another good place to search is at a store that sells bathroom supplies and accessories. Finally, you will want to find a bath and plumbing supply store in your community. They will certainly have these accessories.

One final note. Even though everyone likes their privacy you probably want to remove the lock from the bathroom door an elderly person uses. If they should happen to fall, and the door is locked, panic and difficulty can ensue. If the bathroom door does have a lock make certain it can be unlocked from the outside and that the key is readily available.

© High Speed Ventures 2011